Tag Archives: Blogging

Corporate blogging and “being social”

Back in November I spoke at the Coventry and Warwickshire Social Media Cafe. The organisers have now posted a short write-up of the talk, along with a video (embedded below) of a short conversation we had afterwards that summarised my experience of IBM’s approach to social tools and blogging inside and outside the firewall.

In five years’ time we could be walking round the zoo…

A cryptic title (although a fairly easy lyric to identify) to note that five years ago I started blogging “seriously” outside of the corporate firewall… although I’d had a couple of little online journals before that, 12th December 2005 was the day I kicked off my more active participation in the blogosphere.

It has been a period of enormous change – in online technology, hardware and software capabilities, and in my life, profile and career. I started blogging for a couple of reasons… I tend to mention this when I do my “social @ IBM” talk as a speaker. Primarily it was to share information, knowledge and opinion with colleagues and customers, when I was often working along as a Software Services consultant. It was also to act as a journal.

I mentioned in my last blog entry that I’ve recently taken on a new role as WebSphere Messaging Community Lead at IBM Hursley, and that is in part a reflection and validation of the “social bridgebuilding” I’ve been doing across the corporate firewall and into various spaces over this period. In the past five years I’ve actually ended up moving out of my services / consulting career and into our lab where I try to bring my field experience and customer relationships to bear on what we’re developing. Often it’s actually just about helping to expose some of IBM software’s existing strengths and capabilities to new folks, rather than changing things!

Looking back over five years of this blog (and the others that I contribute to) it’s interesting to see the directions in which my interests have moved. Fundamentally I believe I’m still interested in the impact of technology on society, and in people and individuals. As a pointer to the future, though, I think the next 12 months will probably see a lot more content here focused on solutions I work with. I’ll still continue to sprinkle in other interests – the web, podcasting, video, gaming, photography – but I can feel a body of content building up in my mind that centres more on WebSphere technology. We’ll see what 2011 holds 🙂

As ever – thanks for reading – I hope I continue to provide useful content!

Awards season, and good causes

Awards, part one

I’ve been asked to present an award at the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards 2010 which IBM is supporting this evening in central London. I speak regularly about my experience of using social tools, particularly blogs, within and outside of a large company, so I’m excited to have been asked to be involved in this event. Now that I’ve looked through the impressive list of nominees I’m clearly put to shame in my own use of the medium. It’s great to see such useful content being generated out there… although my own blogging has tailed off slightly in favour of the instant gratification of microupdates, I’m a strong believer that blogging is not being killed off by Twitter, Facebook at the like, and events like this really emphasise the quality of writing that is out there.

A good cause

One aspect of the IT Blog Awards that I’m particularly impressed and excited by is that they have added a challenge category to encourage charitable giving to a good cause. In this case, they are asking bloggers, twitterers and anyone interested to support Computer Aid International’s Computers for Schools Kenya project.

It costs just £50 to get a refurbished PC onto a Kenyan school desk. There is a chronic shortage of PCs in the Kenyan school system and many Kenyan children complete school never having a seen a PC. Without simple IT literacy these children will be denied basic life chances such as equal access to employment opportunities.

All we are asking you to do is encourage your readers or followers to make a donation by directing them to a JustGiving page, and stating it was your blog or tweet that encouraged them to donate.

The person whose followers fund the most PCs for the project will win a prize and we will also put each blogger’s name on a sticker that we can attach to the PCs they fund.

I want to be absolutely clear that I’m not angling to be part of this award category at all (it’s far too late to garner the kind of support I’d need, anyway!) – but I would very much like to encourage you, my blog readers and followers, to donate to the cause if you are able. As with all of these kinds of things, “every little helps” and I think the cause of computer literacy in less well-off countries is tremendously important and worth supporting. I don’t usually use my blog to suggest causes to support, but on this occasion through my involvement with the Computer Weekly IT Blog Awards I’m doing so (just this once). Thanks!

Awards, part two (and more good causes)

From one set of awards, to another. IBM has been running an event called SmartCamp, a global programme bringing startups and entrepreneurs into contact with investors and mentors, all around the theme of building a Smarter Planet. It has literally just been announced that Streetline have been named the winners, with their innovative systems for bringing real-time parking information to drivers in cities using smart sensors.

IBM helping startups? That seems a little bit unusual, doesn’t it…? Surely IBM is big slow company all about doing “enterprise” software, hardware and consulting?

Not so fast! 🙂 IBM actually has a Global Entrepreneur programme which is all about teaming with entrepreneurs who are interested in developing startups to help build a Smarter Planet. A few weeks ago I had lunch with Kevin Farrar, one of the leaders of the initiative, and he got me really excited about some of the things IBM is doing. We’re able to provide enterprise-grade software free-of-charge, support, mentoring, and (for example) visits to labs with Innovation Centres like IBM Hursley. Check out some of the benefits. I’ve spent the past couple of years working on some extremely exciting Smarter Planet-related technology like MQTT and it’s thrilling to see the ways in which startups can begin to take advantage of IBM’s capabilities in these spaces.

I’d honestly missed some of this stuff – it’s so easy in a large organisation sometimes not to pay attention to everything that’s going on – so I really appreciated that Kevin took the time out to explain it to me. Once again, it changes my own perceptions of the sorts of spaces that IBM is operating in. Do get in touch with the Global Entrepreneur folks if you are interested in applying to work with them.

My review policy

Earlier this week I heard that the Federal Trade Commission has introduced new advertising guidelines, which amount to rules for bloggers who review products. A contact of mine also sent me a link to this information directly… I think the unspoken implication there was that they were aware I’m sometimes sent free things to review and that maybe I wasn’t being open about that.

Both of these events acted as triggers to make me finish this post, which has actually been sitting in draft state in my blogging client since… well… March this year. I can’t see that the FTC has any jurisdiction over my blog, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while, as a way of telling both readers and companies what they can expect from me.

It’s true that I’ve been given access to products for review purposes on occasion, and sometimes I’ve been able to keep hold of the products (or been given a full software license after the review period has ended). I’ve always been careful to point out where I’ve been offered a product for review, most recently for example, with the LG Arena mobile phone.

So here’s my standpoint.

  • Firstly, and very importantly – I write here as an individual. I do not make a secret of who my employer is, and you are welcome to read all about me on the About page. However, my opinions and are my own and may or may not represent my employer’s views. I will not review anything here on behalf of my employer, I do so as an individual.
  • If a company wants to invite me to review their product or service then I’m often interested in taking a look.
  • I appreciate it when the company or PR firm actually takes the time to find out what I’m interested in and what I write about, rather than sending me a silly email. Do your research.
  • If you send me something to review, you should expect an honest set of opinions. I will not sugar-coat what I think of it.
  • If you send me something to review then it will be on my timescales. I have a life and a day job and both of those come before writing about your product, site of service.
  • I will always disclose whether I was given / given access to a product in my review. If I do not call that out, then readers should assume that I own the product or am otherwise a personal user of that site or service.

That’s it. Pretty straightforward, really.

Trust and empowerment are key

From a great post about the ESPN and USMC social media rules / bans:

You might not expect a corporate juggernaut like IBM to lead the way when it comes to creating effective social media guidelines for its employees, yet here we are: IBM was one of the first enterprise-size companies to not only recognize the need for such a document, but also to deliver an adequate set of guidelines within it that made sense and allowed its culture to spread. IBM recognized that treating its employees like responsible adults rather than dangerous little children might yield pretty good results.

Indeed. I’ve written about IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines before, and I’ve spoken about them at conferences. I’ve also repeatedly opined that blocking access is counterproductive. It’s important to note that the guidelines were written collaboratively, and they are linked to IBM’s existing standards of professional conduct (the Business Conduct Guidelines) which employees agree to annually. Folks at the leading edge of technology continue to inform and educate the rest of the organisation on good practices and behaviours in these online social spaces.

Let’s end with another of the many quotable extracts from Olivier Blanchard’s post today:

The risk here is not the medium, it is the behavior. Ban access to the medium and you solve nothing: The behavior is still there, only now, you are blind to it. Double-fail.

Oh, in case you’re new around here: I’m an IBMer. My opinions may differ from IBM’s official line from time to time, but that’s OK. My employer trusts me, and I appreciate that.